We woke up and put on our new dresses that we purchased at the market the night before ($4 a dress or less) and had breakfast at the hotel. Our tuktuk driver – the one who laughed every time Emily spoke to him in Khmer – picked us up and drove us about half an hour away to the docks where boats exist to take people to view the floating villages.
We bought our tickets and found a boat – we got the whole big boat to ourselves, and you know I love boats.
We rode out down a smaller river that opened up to the floating villages and there were houseboats everywhere around us. Unfortunately, our guide on this boat was not the greatest guide in the world, but it worked out because Emily could amaze me with all the facts she knew about the area. Like that during wet season the water is literally a story higher – like over 12 feet.
Emily also told me how it’s one of the only rivers in the world that actually switches directions every season. People can live in house boats without having to pay any kind of property tax, which is why many people choose to do it. The people who live in the village follow the water, move with it. People have come from many countries to live here, not just Cambodia. They have full communities living on boats – schools, shops, markets. It’s amazing to think about. Schools are divided into Khmer schools, Vietnamese schools, and Islamic schools.
Weaving our way through all these houseboats, we rode to one of the markets and hopped off the boat. We were greeted by a large hole in the boat that opened up to huge crocodiles! There was a bottom to the area so the crocodiles couldn’t escape into the water.
There was another one of these areas full of large fish. We looked in the market and I picked a few more gifts for my friends and family – looking at all the items was awesome. The saleswoman in the market tried to overcharge us hard. Emily overheard her and her manager discussing how much to charge us. Emily translated “this is only worth $8, but charge them $20” – so having a friend who speaks the language totally came in handy everywhere we went.
We left the market boat and stopped at one of the floating Vietnamese schools. Emily and I got off and expored – there were several small classrooms, a kitchen area, and three boats connecting to create this school.
It is always interesting to see how students learn in another country – and even how different this was from the school in Emily’s village. There were few staff present actually watching the kids.
Can you imagine having American students learning in this environment – leaping from one boat to another, surrounded by fast moving and deep water – without supervision? It wouldn’t fly with anyone in America, but it’s a different world over here and children are treated more like adults with different expectations.
After riding through more of the villages, we made our way back to the big dock, hopped off the boat, and found our driver.
He took us back into Siem Reap and dropped us off for some lunch. We went to this cool pizza place that is owned and run by a guy originally from Boston. I’m always amazed by people who can leave their whole world behind and start a business in a completely different part of the world and be successful at it. It’s more impressive to me than most career choices. After this, we decided to walk around town and the markets some more. We picked up our professional photos from the previous day and bought our bus tickets for the next day, going back to Phnom Penh. I wanted to buy some artwork in the markets, this is always a process because the options are just endless beautiful creations. How can you decide? After looking for a long time and with Emily’s help, I decided on three of different sizes that had great colors and images. As a painter myself, I really respect and appreciate other people’s artwork. I didn’t bargain too hard for these because I know how hard they are to create.
Then we did our favorite thing in the market – another fish foot massage! We were tired and hot, so we just sat there with our feet in the cold water, fish all around our feet and legs (this water went up to our knees) and let the fish do their thing for an hour and a half. I wish we had these in America because I would go so often.
It was a relaxing way to spend our last afternoon in Siem Reap. After our long experience with the fish, we dried our legs off and walked to find dinner. We ate at the same cafe we had gone to the night before and showed Emily’s friends who work there all the photos we had done the day before. They thought it was awesome to look at and kept coming back over to see the photos. We ended up staying there talking, eating, hanging out, enjoying ourselves until the cafe closed then just headed back over to the market area. Emily wanted to find birthday gifts for her students, but wasn’t able to find what she was looking for so we found a driver and took a tuktuk back to the hotel for some rest because the next day was going to be long and nuts – my last day in Cambodia. Unfortunately, I ended up getting pretty sick that night and sleep wasn’t exactly an option.